The Nassau SPCA will offer rewards in animal-abuse and dogfighting cases, officials announced Monday in Mineola with the help of a survivor -- a puppy with its ears and a leg chopped off.
Public donations will fund $1,000 rewards that lead to arrests and convictions in abuse cases and $5,000 rewards in dogfighting cases.
The decision was fueled by two recent cases, said officials at the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. One involved a pit bull mix renamed Miss Harper, rescued last year after enduring several wounds, including a leg that became infected when it was improperly cut off. The other involved the 13 pit bulls that burned to death February in a Freeport garage, part of a suspected dogfighting operation.
"We don't want to be an afterthought -- who threw the puppy, who did this, who did that," said Gary Rogers, an SPCA spokesman and detective.
Six county legislators and the president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association joined the SPCA and Miss Harper at the county legislature building, urging people to do something -- call 911, alert the SPCA or snap a photo -- if they see something.
"Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend," said Norma Gonsalves, the legislature's presiding officer. "Man is supposed to be dog's best friend also."
It's the first time the agency has offered standing rewards since its incorporation in 1974.
The advocacy group has suffered from cash shortages, internal problems, a low profile and the misconception that Long Islanders' donations to the ASPCA go to the Nassau group, SPCA leaders said.
A few key members have been funding daily operations and health care for rescues, but they said the outrage over Miss Harper has fueled donations, some of which may help other animals. About $15,000 in donations poured in, officials said.
As the poster child of the Nassau SPCA's mission, Miss Harper drooled and yawned a little but sat quietly on the lap of SPCA president Bob Sowers, giving him kisses as he spoke.
The puppy's owners and a veterinarian aide were arrested. In the fatal fire, the dogs' owner was arrested.
Miss Harper had another operation three weeks ago to close the wound on her leg and stitches were taken out Thursday, Sowers said. In a few weeks, she'll be fitted with a prosthetic as her forever home is picked out, he said.
After the news conference, the pit bull let out her energy, gamboling on three legs and the stump of her right, hind leg.
Said Sowers, "She's a good, resilient girl."